January 26, 2012

Marching to the Beat of a Different Drummer

"Let every one mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made. Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." - Henry David Thoreau

I am a big Thoreau fan, even if he is considered one of the biggest lazy bums in American history. Thoreau, generally remembered as the recluse who lived in a shack in the woods, who everyone studied back in 10th grade English class, is rarely remembered for anything else.

Thoreau did move to a cabin in the woods for 2 years of his life; he built his own house, grew his own food and perfected the art of cheap entertainment. He wrote that his goal in moving to Walden Pond was to live an experiment in simplicity and introspection but, it was also a place to give him time to write a book and escape local gossip. At the time, he could not hold a steady job and had little luck in relationships and was mourning the death of his brother.  

 Despite popular myth, he was not a hermit. He had frequent visitors to the cabin such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Alcott family and even invited people to stay with him. Many people mistakenly think that he was being hypocritical by having guests and accepting food from others. However, his goal was not self-sufficiency in its entirety but an attempt to demonstrate how far societal norms deviated from the necessaries of life. He showed that a man can live working one day a week and enjoying the remaining six, which was his goal. While not having a tremendous impact during his lifetime, his works went on to inspire many influential people, like Mahatma Gandhi, specifically, Civil Disobedience.

Every once in a while I will pick up Walden. Many of his thoughts ring true, even if they are the ramblings of a societal reject. Perhaps living a “solitary life” really did give him the wisdom he sought. I was particularly enthralled with the quote above recently. I have a few friends who recently feel that they are behind the societal norms in their lives. Some are behind in school, some are behind at work and some are behind at love. I myself thought that it was awful when people would ask me the inevitable question, “So, when are you getting married?” only to realize that it’s a different kind of awful when people stop asking as if you've "peaked." :D

I feel that this generation, and succeeding ones, has an increasingly difficult time with society’s timeline for we see everyone’s timelines plastered on the internet (thanks social networking.) We see practically everyone we’ve ever met, graduating, getting married, having children, succeeding in all parts of life and feel discontent with ours.
We also live in a world where few things are what they seem. We compare ourselves to the mirages we see. We don’t see what goes into making a beautiful actress. We look at her and feel inadequate. We don’t see the make-up or airbrushing. We hear a singer and don’t hear the digital enhancement. We just wonder why we’re off. There are many naturally beautiful women and amazing musicians but we spend a lot of time filtering fact from fiction.
It is the same on a personal level for us. Facebook, blogs and websites erect an imperfect cloak upon the lives of others, leaving only glimpses of perfect lives through the holes. It is hard peeling truth from the lie which we are shown.

We should follow our “own drummer” despite naysayers and gossips or what we think everyone else is doing. The world has taken to measuring success and happiness by money because it is an easy universal standard. But money is a poor indication of happiness. Everyone has their own goals, dreams and standards of success. The “good life” of one man in a prison sentence for another, so why do we place these men on the same measuring tape?     

This post is dedicated to my friends who should enjoy life as each journey is different and they are not comparable. Make choices that are right for you


  1. Thanks. That really means a lot to me. I know that I should be way out of school by now but I do think this is really the choice for me. Other people I know who already graduated are still job searching. I might as well move at my own pace. See you in class?

  2. This is the kind of post that you need to print up and keep in a non-digitized safe place, to pull out and re-read every time you feel yourself slipping!

    Well-reasoned, solid! I feel for you at "a different kind of awful"!!! Be encouraged. You are on the right path when you can hold that centered sense of who you are meant to be (or become) and hold to that track until you are meant to step aside (that Frost-y two paths divergent decision point).

    1. Thanks Jacqi! A lot of people are dealing with these emotions.

  3. This was a really good post.

    'I myself thought that it was awful when people would ask me the inevitable question, “So, when are you getting married?” only to realize that it’s a different kind of awful when people stop asking as if you've "peaked."'

    I die whenever you mention this. I love you. <3

    1. I don't really care anymore. It's not like I'm lonely or not loved. I've never been normal why would my relationship? :D

  4. I like the pidgeon.

  5. Envy is curious. What we often don't see is the tremendous amount of work it takes to become accomplished at practically anything. The other thing I've noticed is that people tend to keep their sorrows private. I have many wealthy, accomplished friends who have achieved so many things in their lives - good marriages, beautiful homes, lovely children - yet the closer I become to them, the more I see the difficulties that they've had to deal with in their lives. Bipolar parents, alcoholic spouses, sibling suicide, etc. Years ago I figured out that every minute I spent comparing myself to someone else was a minute I could have used to just focus on building my own creative life. Love your post. And blog!

    1. Thanks Elsie!

      I love this : "Years ago I figured out that every minute I spent comparing myself to someone else was a minute I could have used to just focus on building my own creative life."

    2. Great post and comments! As I was reading, several people came to mind to send it to, one, a girl, gorgeous tall thin thirty-ish and has everything you'd think you'd want, but is miserable...a very dear friend in his early 70's that is struggling to re-invent himself and his "art". Recently I have come to similar conclusions and realizations about life after coming through a hard year of personal struggles and immense growth, only to emerge better than ever before. Living in the unknown has gotten easier as I learn to have self-love and stop looking outside myself for it, as I think many of my generation was taught. Finally I have the wisdom I always wanted. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and inspiring me. I will pass them on!


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